Today I am taking a break from the story of the Gazelles 2019 to highlight the charitable causes behind the adventures.
As you will already know if you read the “Morocco” post, there are two causes that I am proud to support.
The first is the Gazelles charity, “Coeur de Gazelles”. Every Gazelle supports this organisation in two ways. Firstly through their participation in the rally. The charity shares the logistics platform with the rally, enabling them to get the supplies and personnel out to the Moroccan Sahara, and to the villages in which they work.
The second way the Gazelles support the Charity is by collecting donations. This covers a wide range of things from clothes and shoes to hygiene and medical supplies and educational items. All of these donations are collected together in Nice and transported to Morocco in a lorry. The human chain of Gazelles passing the donations down the Promenade is one of the highlights of departure day!
We were very grateful to the school in Argenton, Ecole St Marie, and our local branch of Credit Agricole, for their help in collecting donations for the 2019 edition.
We were also very pleased to be able to visit one of the villages where the Charity was working, during the rally. This was the village of Tissardmine, where the medical workers were lucky to be able to base themselves in a complex owned by a lovely English lady who settled in this remote corner of the Sahara several years ago. The people came from the surrounding areas to visit various medical professionals, including general doctors, dentists and opticians, and after they had had their examinations, they went to the truck to get donations that corresponded to their needs. There were also educational activities for the children, teaching them about ecological issues – single use plastic bags are a major problem in Morocco.
It was such a great experience to see first hand the work of the Charity. During the 2019 edition of the Rally, 8,434 medical interventions were carried out. The Coeur de Gazelles provides the largest Medical Caravan working in Morocco.
After the Rally, I made contact with a fellow Gazelle, Benedicte, who introduced me to the other Charity that I am delighted to support.
The British Moroccan Society is, as the name suggests, an organisation which promotes and fosters links between the two countries. They support various education projects in Morocco, and in particular they fully fund a school and Learning Centre in Talataste which is in the Atlas Mountains just over an hour from Marrakech.
Giving children and adults the opportunity to get an education is a personal passion of mine. I enjoyed school, and I love learning things, and growing up in the UK I was lucky to have the opportunity to learn as a given right. It was a pleasure to visit the school in our nearby town of Argenton prior to the rally, and spend a bit of time with the children. Their enthusiasm and open enquiring minds inspired me, and made me remember what is was like to have a world of discovery at your finger tips.
Also, my gorgeous little friend in Marrkech, Fatimezzahra inspires and motivates me. She has just started school at the age of 3 (I know she looks older) and is learning French and Arabic side by side, and also thanks to the CeeBeebies website, she is learning English too! I find this incredible, but the other great thing is that her mum is learning with her! When I first met Naima we couldn’t communicate as she only spoke Arabic, and my personal grasp of that language is limited to a few words! That really brought it home to me how education can change lives.
Anyway, I have digressed slightly, but important I think to give you some background!
I have already raised funds for the school at Talataste thanks to our 2019 Afternoon Tea Party in July, and so it was a great pleasure to actually visit the school during my recent trip to Morocco.
My sister and I left Marrakech with Abdou our driver on an uncharacteristically dull chilly day, and headed off in the direction of Ouazazate. To reach Talataste you have to leave the tarmac road and head up a dusty rocky track – perfect territory for Priscilla, but sadly she wasn’t with us. Abdou did chose that moment to tell us that he usually droves a minibus and wasn’t really comfortable with the Toyota 4×4 we were in! However, we arrived at the village without incident and picked our way to the school. I say picked our way as there aren’t streets or pavements, just compacted red earth spaces between the buildings through which the water runs by the look of it, after a rainfall. This is quite normal in the Moroccan countryside. It is easy to judge the villagers living conditions by our European standards, but it is also important to remember that they are luckier than many.
On arrival at the school, we were delighted to meet Halima the teacher and she quickly gathered the children around to show off their skills. They were doing practically the same exercises that Fatima had been showing me back in the town – learning to draw straight lines and curves in order to progress to drawing shapes and then letters. Unlike Fatima they were using little individual blackboards instead of exercise books, and I realised that the exercise books and pencils I had taken probably weren’t that appropriate, but hopefully some of the older children can use them. Next time I will take blackboard paint and chalk!
Luckily the coloured pencils I had taken will definitely come in handy as the next exercise they did was to colour in shapes drawn by Halima, and their crayon box was starting to look at bit sad! After this Halima asked them to identify the shapes they had coloured and the colours they had used, and then following on from that they used the shapes to create things on their blackboards.
After we had had the unexpected pleasure of some traditional food with Halima and Khalid, bread with an assortment of olives, boiled egg, olive oil, honey etc, (a standard sort of snack in Morocco), we were able to see a bit of the village and the industry of the village which is pottery. We also saw some of the goods produced by the women’s co-operative in the village – beautiful rugs and textile items, and I was sad not to be able to purchase anything on this occasion. Definitely need to take Priscilla back and fill her with goodies! It was also interesting to speak a little with the village folk, who were enthusiastic about the benefits that the school has brought. I am delighted that the money raised in July will help them, and I am determined to raise more, and to go back and visit again!
(I wont wear white trousers next time as the red dust covers everything … !)
I am also proud that Priscilla is carrying the British Moroccan Society logo on her sides and we will continue to support them.